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Phil's Dream easily captures Grade 1 debut in Nearctic

Phil's Dream, who is not BC nominated, will not take up his berth in the Turf Sprint (WEG/Michael Burns Photography)
The 9-1 Phil's Dream upstaged his more accomplished rivals in Sunday's Grade 1, $328,826 Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine, making his graded debut a winning one. Bred, owned, and trained by Paul Buttigieg, the five-year-old gelding easily overtook Longhunter and drew off to a convincing two-length decision.

The Nearctic was a "Win and You're In" for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, but Phil's Dream is not Breeders' Cup nominated. Nor was his sire Philanthropist Breeders' Cup nominated in the year of his conception, 2007. Hence it would cost $200,000 to make Phil's Dream eligible, and he is not advancing to Santa Anita.

Phil's Dream was not only stepping up markedly in class from his victory in the September 22 Overskate on Polytrack, for progeny of Ontario sires, but he was also making just his second career start on turf. Regular rider Justin Stein had him well placed just off the pace set by Fatal Bullet through splits of :22 4/5 and :46 2/5 on the good turf.

Longhunter, the 7-2 second choice, chased early and engaged Fatal Bullet down the stretch. Mr. Online also made headway, while 3-1 favorite Excaper and reigning Canadian champion turf horse Riding the River were among those in the hunt, but ultimately unable to lift their game.

As Longhunter began to inch away from Fatal Bullet, Phil's Dream smoothly angled out and punched home with authority. The handy winner negotiated six furlongs in 1:10 4/5 and rewarded his backers with a $20 win payout.

"He's a really nice horse, super talented," Stein said. "I did have to sit and wait a little bit, but I had lots of horse to carry me to where I needed to be when it was time to ask him to run."

Mr. Online took runner-up honors by three-quarters of a length from Longhunter. There was another gap of 2 1/4 lengths to Langstaff, who prevailed in a blanket finish for fourth. Next came Bear Tough Tiger, Riding the River, Bear No Joke, Fatal Bullet, Excaper and Strong Impact. Tripski, cross-entered to Monday's 3RD race at Belmont, was scratched.

Phil's Dream boosted his bankroll to $497,111 from his 12-7-2-1 line, all at Woodbine. Unraced at two, the dark bay broke his maiden versus Ontario-breds in his fourth try as a sophomore on July 3, 2011. Phil's Dream was subsequently sidelined for 22 months, and returned with an encouraging second in an Ontario-bred allowance on April 26. After taking an allowance on May 19, he landed a seven-furlong turf event on June 19, both in the same restricted company.

A 2 3/4-length winner over open rivals back on Polytrack July 7, Phil's Dream made his stakes debut in the August 5 Shepperton, an Ontario sire stakes, where he argued the pace and faded to fourth. He rebounded in an open-company allowance on September 1, earned his first stakes score by a neck in the Overskate, and extended his streak to three in the Nearctic.

Phil's Dream is out of the winning Emperor Jones mare Dream a Dream. Further back in the family, one finds Hong Kong champion Privilege and U.A.E. co-highweight Right Approach, who dead-heated with Paolini in the 2004 Dubai Duty Free.

Phil's Dream's fifth dam, Highlight, is ancestress of such stars as Height of Fashion (the dam of Nashwan, Unfuwain and Nayef) and Japanese superstar and outstanding sire Deep Impact.

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